About stevenmbeard

Musselburgh Camera Club 56

07 October 2021 (Digital Projected Images Competition)

The first major competition of the club calendar took place on 7th October 2021. Neil McGoldrick, from Hatton, Aberdeenshire, joined us via Zoom to judge our Digital Projected Images competition.  You can check out some of Neil’s work on his Flikr site: https://www.flickr.com/people/45770642@N04/

The competition almost didn’t take place as expected. We arrived at the Fisherrow Centre to discover the Wi-Fi was not working!  This is not a good thing for a hybrid meeting connected through Zoom.  After we had spent 20 minutes struggling to connect, George Todd eventually saved the day by turning his mobile phone into a Wi-Fi hot spot.

17 members had entered 54 images altogether. There were shots of wildlife, landscapes, urban architecture, portraits, men at work, flowers, and some interesting abstract and still life shots. One of these, John West’s “For Khandles”, was praised for it’s amusing and imaginative title.  Neil commented on the composition of each shot and did not like shots with too much empty space or strong background colours. There were some beautiful compositions he really liked but needed their highlight areas darkened. Some shots were not quite sharp enough where it mattered. Neil was pleased that so many members had decorated their images with a border, which helped delineate them when projected onto a screen, but he suggested that pure white is not necessarily the best colour to use. A very bright colour can draw the eye away from the centre. He suggested using a more neutral colour.  The top scorers were (in reverse order):

  • 5th place (48 points)
    • Lorraine Roberts
    • Gordon Davidson
  • 4th place (49 points)
    • Charlie Briggs
    • Gavin Marshall
    • Mike Clark
  • 3rd place (50 points)
    • Jennifer Davidson
    • Joe Fowler
  • 2nd place (51 points)
    • Malcolm Roberts
  • 1st place (55 points)
    • GeorgeTodd

The top images were:

  • Candlemakers (George Todd) – 20 points
  • Not on Speaking Terms (Charlie Briggs) – 19 points
  • Kelpies at Night (George Todd) – 18 points
  • White Tailed Sea Eagle – Catch of the Day (Mike Clark) – 18 points

Well done to George Todd for winning the competition and getting the 1st and 3rd placed images. Commiserations to Charlie Briggs and Mike Clark, who had images placed 2nd and 4th but just missed out on a medal. But your great images will still help the club in our inter-club competitions. The total scores included a lot of shots scoring 17 points.

Next week we will go through the competition images a second time, with more opportunity for feedback, comments and questions. I am away on holiday, so next week’s meeting will be hosted by George and Joe.

See you in two weeks.

23 September 2021 (Into the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods)

On 23rd September, George Robertson visited the club to give us our first face to face talk for more than 18 months. Two thirds of club members came to the Fisherrow Centre to see George’s talk, with another third joining remotely by Zoom. George is a member of Milngavie and Bearsden Camera Club and runs a guided mountain walking company called “MountainTreks” (see below).


He guides clients through mountaineering adventures, and his photography began from a need to give clients a visual record of their journey. George’s photographs have won him awards, the most recent being the ‘Urban Life’ category of ‘Landscape Photographer of the Year’ 2017 and 2020 awards. George’s work can be followed on his photography site:


The title of George’s talk comes from a book by Galen Rowell, containing a photographic record of his attempt to climb K2 in 1975. The book inspired George to travel to the Baltoro Glacier in the Karakoram mountains of Northern Pakistan. We had the privilege of leafing through the book and seeing the fantastic photographs contained within it.

George described to us the awe-inspiring journey he had made around this glacier a few years ago while escorting clients to the basecamp of K2. The group had to carry everything they needed for the trip, so there was little room for photographic equipment. George was limited to just a camera body, a single 18-200mm lens and 6 camera batteries. There was no point in attempting to fit a filter or change the lens because the environment was very hostile and dusty. The main purpose of the trip was to look after the clients, so there were only limited windows of opportunity for photography.

Despite the limited time and rigours of the trek, George still came away with a fantastic photographic record. We were treated us to a feast of staggeringly beautiful mountain images: bright snow; stark mountain peaks contrasting against a bright sky; threatening clouds wrapping around the peaks; the striated curves of flowing glaciers; and “mushroom” rocks balanced on stumps of ice. George’s photographs also described the story of the trip: the local towns and run-down buildings; the rough and broken roads; the river crossings; and the tiny tents clinging to a huge mountain landscape. There were also some great portraits of George’s group and of the local people he encountered on the way.

We ended the evening utterly gobsmacked by the quality and beauty of the mountain photographs. Very few people get to travel to these remote and inhospitable places. Thank you George for bringing us a flavour of this amazing scenery.

09 September 2021 (A Journey Round Spitzbergen)

On 9th September 2021, we joined Beeslack Penicuik Camera Club for a joint session with their guest speaker, John Nathan, from Tonbridge Camera Club in Kent, England. John joined us by Zoom and told us the story of his trip to Spitzbergen, which gave him the 15 photographs he needed to qualify as an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society (ARPS). This was our first truly hybrid session with a guest speaker, with some members joining by Zoom and some members watching John’s presentation at the Fisherrow Centre.

John flew to Spitzbergen from Norway. He found it to be a place with very few roads, where most of the transport was by ski doo or small boat. It was a land where there was almost constant daylight during the summer, and where there was an ever-present danger from polar bears. All visitors needed to be escorted by guides who would scout out an area to be visited to make sure no polar bears were lurking there. There was also a danger from pack ice, which frequently scraped along the side of the ships used to tour around the islands, but the pilots were used to the environment and confidently navigated through it.

John showed us the photographs he took on his travels around the islands of Spitzbergen, from Longyearbyen, to Poolypynten, to Ny Alesund, alongside the Monaco Glacier, through the straits to Kiepertoya, and then down to Kapp Lee, Gashamma and Bourbonhamma. There were landscape photographs showing the beautiful lighting and reflections, the weird and wonderful colours and shapes of the icebergs and the ragged mountains contrasting with the smooth reflections on calm water. John had also captured some wildlife shots of walrus, seals, seabirds and, of course, polar bears from a safe distance.

John ended his presentation by showing us how he had put together the 15 A4 prints he had submitted to the RPS. The collection was carefully balanced to show both the beautiful scenery and the variety of wildlife living around Spizbergen. For more of John’s work, check out his web site:


Thank you to Beeslack Penicuik Camera Club for hosting a fascination session.

29 April 2021 (AGM and Presentation of Trophies)

The 2020/21 Musselburgh Camera Club season ended on 29th April 2021 with the AGM and the presentation of trophies.  It has been a very unusual club season, with all of the meetings taking place by Zoom.  A summary of the season can be found on the Chairman’s Comments page.  I would like to thank all members who have supported the club during this unusual year.  The lack of face to face meetings meant we missed some regulars, such as the “match an image” competition with North Berwick Photographic Society and our annual get together with Musselburgh Art Club. But the Zoom format has given us some new opportunities, such as being able to invite judges and speakers from further afield, and meet up with photographers from overseas clubs, such as

22 October 2020 (International Swedish Members Evening)

03 December 2020 (International Dutch Members Evening)

04 March 2021 (Three Weeks in Burma)

11 March 2021 (Swedish Interclub)

Next season I hope we will be able to have a mixture of face to face and Zoom meetings and gain the advantages of both.  Our AGM finished with a virtual presentation of trophies. A full list of winners can be found on the following page.

Trophy Winners – 2020/2021

I look forward to seeing you all at the next season, when I hope we can welcome some new members. Our first meeting will be on Thursday, 2nd September 2021. See you then.

Steven Beard

15 April 2021 (Digital Knockout Competition)

Our last competition of the season was an informal one: our annual digital knockout competition, where all the members get a chance to be judges.  Members submitted up to 3 JPEG images on the theme of “abstract”. 46 images were submitted in total. The images turned out to be a masterclass in photographic innovation. Members had used a variety of clever techniques to create their images; making use of reflections, intentional camera movement, close-ups of textured surfaces; unusual views of architectural features, household objects or artworks; or composites cunningly constructed from objects photographed in a light box. The simplest, and yet most innovative, example was Anne Yeoman’s photograph of the back of the lid from a jar of curry sauce. Now we will all see our used jar lids in a new light!  There were also some great humorous entries, such as Joe Fowler’s  “Crush Me If You Can” and Mike Clark’s “Release The Kraken”.

Members judged the quality and impact of each image, together with its relevance to the “abstract” subject. Most of the images were of high quality, making it difficult to pick the winners. Members felt that the best abstract images were ones that used the texture, shapes and colours of an object to create an effect where the identify of the original object was not obvious.  There were debates whether a textured surface was made of wood, rock, ice (or coffee!); or whether the unusual shapes seen were natural or create by an art filter effect.  There were some excellent still life and landscape compositions which lost out due to their subject matter not being sufficiently abstract, but those images could do very well in a more general competition.  The images were paired together in a series of head-to-head rounds until only 7 remained. Members then voted for their favourite to determine the final placings, and the result was:

  • 4rd place
    • Seascape (Stephen Williams)
    • Orange Light (Sandra Crowhurst)
    • Frosty Feathers (Anne Yeomans)
  • 3rd Place
    • Abstract 03 (Gordon Davidson)
    • Cool Abstract (Lorraine Roberts)
  • 2nd Place 
    • Looking Up (Stephen Williams)
  • 1st Place
    • The Vortex (John West)

The evening ended with a lengthy discussion about exactly how each image had been created, making it the longest club meeting of the season!

Well done to John West, whose winning image was created by taking some beautiful coloured reflections and warping them into a dramatic vortex pattern. Stephen Williams’ second placed image converted an unusual view of an electricity pylon into something looking like an artwork. In third place, Gordon Davidson’s image showed an unusual view of a stack of metal chairs, and Lorraine Roberts’ image showed the surface of a glacier.

Socially Distanced Photoshoot – Granton Harbour Edinburgh

This is to let you know I am planning to visit Granton Harbour in Edinburgh for a possible photoshoot around 3pm on Sunday afternoon. I hope there will be street parking available. Google tells me there is some parking at the Gypsy Brae recreation area nearby if I can’t find anything. You don’t have to go to the harbour at the same time as me, and members who live nearer than me might prefer to visit around sunrise or sunset and get some better lighting conditions. You also don’t need to go this weekend. If you are not working full time, a weekday visit may be less crowded.

There are other photoshoot options available for members who don’t want to travel into Edinburgh, or if Granton Harbour turns out to be too crowded (there were a lot of folk heading for the coast today):

  • Craigmillar Castle: Still in Edinburgh but less likely to be crowded in warm sunny weather.
  • Fisherrow Harbour, Port Seton Harbour and Dunbar Harbour: Some alternative harbours in East Lothian, with Dunbar easily accessible from the Borders.
  • Hailes Castle: An alternative castle in East Lothian. I visited the castle last weekend. There are no staff at the site, but you can wander around the castle grounds. I found a good spot to take photos of the castle down by the river. There is only very limited parking available, so it’s best to arrive early.

Wherever and whenever we end up, we can meet this coming Thursday, 22nd April, to compare our experiences.

Best of luck!


08 April 2021 (A Photoshop Retrospective)

This week we were delighted to welcome Libby Smith of Carluke Camera Club and the Scottish Photographic Federation.  Libby had last visited the club in 2018, only this time she didn’t need to trek from Carluke to Musselburgh in the foul weather. Libby’s talks are always fascinating and enlightening and usually contain valuable snippets of information about Photoshop techniques. This time Libby gave us a complete Photoshop perspective, describing how she first got into digital photography in the 1990s by scanning slides and film.  Photoshop began as a digital alternative to darkroom techniques. It could be used to correct the tones and colours from digitized slides, or combine slides together for special effects. Colour slides could be converted to black and white. Using Photoshop to add film grain noise to the digitized images helped lower the contrast and create an atmospheric effect. Libby learned that you can’t use the same effect on everything, and it pays to experiment and find which techniques work best for your own style of images. For example, a watercolour art effect can enhance some images by removing background detail, as long as the effect doesn’t destroy important detail in your subject. The “find edges” filter can also be used for special effects. A layer mask can be use to apply the effect only to certain parts of the image (e.g. to some tulips but not the sky behind them). You can experiment with different brush textures for creative effects. You can also change the mood by hand-colouring parts of your image.

Libby moved on to show us how she learned to make composite shots using Photoshop layers. Composites give you more creative freedom. You can take components from several different images (a lighthouse from one place, a clifftop from another place, a dramatic sky from somewhere else…) and combine them. Libby warned us that if you become well known for making composites, people will start to think every image you show is a composite! Dramatic images can be made by blending a portrait or still life image with a textured background. Libby makes textured backgrounds by photographing interesting objects (such as dried petals, plants, seed heads and feathers) against a plain white background. The white background helps you to select the objects. You can also capture images of flat objects using a flat-bed scanner. The backgrounds can be placed in separate layers and combined using “soft light”, “hard light” or “overlay” blending modes. These blending modes tend to add contrast, so it is important to reduce the contrast in the background before blending. Libby went on to show us some stunning landscape images, dramatic images of derelict cottages and mining equipment, and some beautiful portraits; all enhanced by Photoshop techniques.

During the evening we also learned the following hints and tips:

  • When using a digital camera with Photoshop, try to expose so the peak of your histogram moves as far to the right as possible without losing highlights. Unlike slide film, which is best exposed to give rich dark shadows, digital cameras give the best results when the shadows have as much light as possible.
  • Photographs tend to look darker when printed than when viewed on the screen. Libby lightens her images by half a stop before printing them.
  • The “magic wand” selection tool can be used to select a white background, enabling objects placed on that background to be selected without leaving a halo around them.
  • If you are applying special effects to a portrait, make sure the face is not affected.
  • Using a negative clarity setting in “camera raw” can create a soft focus effect (as an alternative to blurring).
  • Try removing just a subset of the colours from an image to create a black and white image with a little bit of colour. Libby often removes green to reduce the distracting effect of grass but keep the subtle colours of rocks and stones.
  • A colour print can sometimes be improved by boosting the saturation in yellow and red (using the “hue and saturation” adjustment), which will emphasise the light on the print. A sunset image can similarly be improved by reducing the saturation in the blue.

Libby was our final speaker of the season, but she gave us lots of creative ideas to try over the summer and take to next season. Thank you Libby for a very entertaining and fascinating talk.

1 April 2021 (Quiz Night)

1st April 2021 was the club’s annual quiz night, which this year took place by Zoom teleconference. Members answered 29 questions devised by Joe Fowler.  We answered a variety of questions on photography, wildlife, world events and local history and landmarks. How many people know that a Joppa to Musselburgh tram service started in 1904 and terminated at Levenhall?  Why is the Duke of Wellington statue at Princes Street and North Bridge facing south, and do you know the name of his horse?  Can you name all of Edinburgh’s seven hills, or the three lochs surrounding Arthur’s Seat?  Do you know the collective noun for a group of crows? How about puffins?  The evening wasn’t without some controversy. Was the deadly epidemic of 1918 caused by “Spanish Flu” or by the “H1N1 influenza A virus”?  Sandra Crowhurst earned herself a bonus point for knowing the full name.  Which bird has the widest wing span? The correct answer was “albatross”, but some members couldn’t believe it wasn’t a condor or pelican. The definitive answer can be found on wikipedia: The wandering albatross does have the largest span, with the great white pelican coming second and Andean condor languishing in 8th place.  There was also a debate about the number of monuments on Calton Hill, and the origin of its name.  The final result was:

  • 4th place (42 points)
    • Steven Beard
  • 3rd place (44 points)
    • Malcolm and Lorraine Roberts
  • 2nd place (46 points)
    • Mike Clark
  • 1st place (49 points)
    • Sandra Crowhurst

Well done to Sandra, whose local and historical knowledge surpassed the rest of us. Thank you to Joe for compiling the questions and giving us a very enjoyable and entertaining evening.

25 March 2021 (Set Subject Competition – Flowers and Horticulture)

The third and final part of our set subject competition took place on 25th March 2021 on the subject of “Flowers and Horticulture”.  The competition was judged by George Todd, one of last year’s winners. Besides judging this competition, George Todd began the competition top of the leader board with 108 points. This was the score everyone needed to beat.

45 images had been entered by 15 members. George remarked that flower photography was a difficult subject. It was tricky capturing a good image of flowers in a garden without including distractions in the background. Depth of field was critical. It needed to be large enough to capture the interesting parts of your flower but narrow enough to blur the background. Some of the flower images entered had been made in a garden, while others had been taken indoors under more controlled conditions.  George commented on the composition of each image. The flower images worked better when you could see the stem leading to the flower. Clusters of flowers worked just as well as single flowers, even if not all the flowers were in focus, but very blurred flowers in the background made coloured distractions. Some images worked better when cropped tighter on their subject and some needed their colours enhanced. George also commented on the lighting an exposure of the images. The UV light in strong sunlight can very easily overexpose a flower image and wash out the colours. It is better to take the images in soft light and expose for the highlights. The images overall were to a high standard, which resulted in lot of high scores.

The top scorers were (in reverse order):

  • 5th place (52 points)
    • John West
  • 4th place (53 points)
    • Malcolm Roberts
    • Steve Williams
    • Gordon Davidson
  • 3rd place (54 points)
    • Steven Beard
    • Anne Yeomans
  • 2nd place (55 points)
    • Joe Fowler
  • 1st place (56 points)
    • Elaine Gilroy

The top images were:

  • Lilly in the Rain (Joe Fowler) – 20 points
  • Sunflower (Elaine Gilroy) – 20 points
  • Reflected Beauty (Steven Beard) – 19 points
  • African Violet (John West) – 19 points
  • Frosty Leaves (Anne Yeomans) – 19 points
  • There were also 14 images with 18 points; belonging to Jennifer Davidson, Joe Fowler, Malcolm Roberts, Steven Beard, Steve Williams, Elaine Gilroy, Catriona McKay, Gordon Davidson, Ian Marr and Anne Yeomans.

Well done to Elaine Gilroy, who wins the right to judge next year’s competition! The final result of the competition after this close and high scoring round is:

  • 1st place
    • Malcolm Roberts (56 + 53 = 109)
  • 2nd place
    • George Todd (53 + 55 = 108)
  • 3rd place
    • Joe Fowler (52 + 55 = 107)
    • Steve Williams (54 + 53 = 107)
    • Gordon Davidson (53 + 54 = 107)
    • Anne Yeomans (53 + 54 = 107)
  • 4th place
    • Steven Beard (49 + 54 = 103)
    • Elaine Gilroy (47 + 56 = 103)

Well done to Malcolm Roberts, who wins the trophy! Thank you also to George Todd for judging the competition.

18 March 2021 (Documentary and Street Photography)

Derek Clark was originally scheduled to speak to us on 26th March 2020, but his talk had to be cancelled at the last minute because of the first lockdown. This week, after almost a year of waiting, we were at last able to see his presentation on Documentary and Street Photography.  Derek’s impressive portfolio can be found on his web site:


Derek shows us many examples of his photographs documenting life events, news stories, sports and music. One example is Derek’s portfolio “Death By 74 CUTS” documenting urban decay in Glasgow: https://www.kagecollective.com/kage-stories/2021/3/18/death-by-74-cuts. Derek had also captured portraits of musicians for Jazz Life magazine and CD covers.  A common theme running through Derek’s portfolio is his liking for black and white photography. Derek uses custom presets in Silver Efex Pro 2 to achieve his high contrast black and white style.

Derek also showed us his street photography and gave us tips for capturing natural candid images. Derek uses small Fuji cameras for street photography and normally shoots from the hip to avoid attracting attention. One exception is when Derek sets his camera on a tripod and uses a long exposure to capture movement. He uses wide angle lenses, such as a Fuji 28mm or 35mm lens. Wide angle lenses require you to get close to your subject, but they don’t need to be pointed right at the subjects. Derek uses zone focussing: manually setting the focus to a certain distance, noting the depth of field, and just waiting for subjects to come into the focus zone.

Derek’s presentation was fascinating, and he has given us some inspiration to go out and capture candid images once the present lockdown has ended.